Monthly Archives: January 2018

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

By Heather Morris

Author Heather Morris uses such a light touch to tell the harrowing tale of the prisoner of Auschwitz who became the tattooist. Despite the sheer horror of the setting, this is ultimately an uplifting story about love, survival and triumph. She came to know the tattooist, born Ludwig “Lale” Eisenberg, over the course of three years, and this book is based on his story. In the book, he is a truly remarkable human being. Viktor Frankl-like, he absolutely refuses to be a victim and chooses instead to survive. Lale, who has to tattoo numbers onto the arms of all newcomers to the camps (those who are not sent immediately to the gas chambers), is smitten by one of the girls he has to ink. Then, against the awful backdrop of death, torture and deprivation, the love story between Lale and Gita unfolds. Beautifully written, disturbing yet compelling.

To read more about Lale, and this book, visit http://www.bbc.com/news/stories-42568390

Publisher’s summary:

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.

There have been many books about the Holocaust – and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov’s incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive – not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also – almost unbelievably – a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story – their story – will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.

Like many survivors, Lale and Gita told few people their story after the war. They eventually made their way to Australia, where they raised a son and had a successful life. But when Gita died, Lale felt he could no longer carry the burden of their past alone. He chose to tell his story

 

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On the Bright Side, The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen

By Hendrik Groen

What a total delight. I hadn’t read the first book in this series, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old, so wasn’t sure what I was letting myself in for. What I didn’t expect was this screamingly funny, desperately sad and ultimately incredibly uplifting read. Hendrik’s short daily diary musings are often hilarious as he describes his life, what’s happening in the world around him, his friends and other occupants of the retirement home. He gives real insight into the indignities of old age – as well as the issue of care for the elderly. Hendrik and his friends are all in their eighties and most rely on something (a cane; a wheelchair) to get around. They are, however, determined to enjoy life rather than sit around complaining or being spiteful and judgemental, as are many of their fellow residents. Instead, they organise outings and get involved in running the home. They’re great fun, a joy to meet and just a little subversive. Adding a measure of mystique is the fact that no-one seems to know who penned these books. Whoever it is, I really hope there’s another in the pipeline!

Book blurb:

The new diary from one of literature’s most beloved octogenarians.

On The Bright Side picks up where The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen left off, at the care home of the anarchic Old-But-Not-Dead Club where Hendrik and his friends are determined to enjoy their autumn years full of optimism. Written with his characteristic charm and humour  Hendrik proves, yet again, that age is simply a number.